Main image: Photography by Steve Ryan
From April, Acme Fire Cult, a new live fire concept from chefs Andrew Clarke and Daniel Watkins, will open its first permanent restaurant at 40FT Brewery in Dalston. A collaboration with Steve Ryan of 40FT, Acme Fire Cult offers a new approach to barbecue, where vegetables take centre stage and where food and drink are intrinsically linked; from using beer by-products such as yeast and spent grain to make ferments and hot sauces to using Acme’s favourite ingredients as adjuncts in beers, such as ancho chillies.
Acme Fire Cult began in the spring of 2021 after Andrew Clarke and Daniel Watkin’s successful summer residency at London Fields Courtyard in Hackney. Deriving from the Greek word akmē (the point at which something is at its best or most highly developed), the menu at Acme Fire Cult is an evolution of their London Fields Courtyard offering, but central to the collaboration with 40FT is the symbiotic relationship between the food and drink. The low waste menu will use beer brewing by-products to make ferments and sauces, such as their Acme ‘Marmite’, made from leftover beer yeast; Ancho hot sauce made with beer-soaked chillis, and beer molasses made by reducing down the ‘first runnings’ to be drizzled on desserts. Spent grain will be used for fermenting dish ingredients such as nukazuke pickles and even to make dog biscuits.
The restaurant will have ten beer taps pouring fresh beers brewed on-site that will be paired with dishes. Special edition beers will be brewed each month by 40FT to pair with the menu, with ingredients that will later be used in cooking. The first of these is Acme Dark Lager, a schwarzbier with a malt bill of chocolate and dark malts with subtle complexity from ancho chillies.
In addition to 40FT beers, there will be a concise wine list from Holly Willcocks (ex Noble Rot, now co-founder of Half Cut Market, Camden) and a cocktail menu to pair with the food with classic negronis and margaritas and beer-based cocktails like their Michelada built on the Acme Dark Lager with Acme hot sauce and fresh lime.
Vegetables will be at the heart of the menu, alongside rare and native breed meat from regenerative farms such as Lyon Hill Farm and Swaledale Butchers, plus dayboat fish from sustainable suppliers such as Fin & Flounder and Bethnal Green Fish, in supporting roles. At Acme, inspiration is pulled from around the globe, evident in their grilling and fermentation techniques, as well as their heavy use of chilli and spices. The constantly evolving, seasonal menu will feature small plates such as Grilled Leeks & Pistachio Romesco, alongside the likes of Beetroots with a sweet & sour dill dressing, beetroot purée, pickled blueberries and sorrel, which is cooked in the ‘first runnings’ of 40FT Brewery Sunset Hazy IPA. The sweet, malty, beet-infused juice is reduced down to a sticky molasses, which is then used to glaze the beetroot as they’re smoked and semi-dehydrated over birch wood. As at London Fields Courtyard, there will be a selection of flatbreads available, such as Coal Roasted Celeriac, Mushroom-Kelp XO, Coco Bean Miso and Salsa Verde made with foraged mushrooms and hand-gathered seaweed; Dorset Crab, Bone Marrow, Jalapeno Verde and Salted Cabbage and Smoked Shortrib, Mustard Greens, Beef fat Crema and Ancho Koij, where the Shortrib is glazed with a molasses made from 40FT Eccles Cake Stout. Large plates will include new dishes such as ½ Herb Fed Chicken with Vadouvan Butter, Tropea Onion and Crème Fraiche, alongside some favourites from their London Fields Courtyard residency, such as a ‘Char Siu’ of Monkfish, which uses a sweet and sour molasses of (by-product) fermented beetroot juice, then is dusted in fennel pollen, and served with roast Jalapeño verde and grilled sea vegetables. There will also be a reduced menu of small plates and flatbreads served at the 40FT Brewery taproom across the yard, which will also be available to takeaway.
The restaurant will be opposite the 40FT Brewery tap room, seating 50 covers inside and 60 outside on the covered and heated terrace. A large custom made grill and smoker will stand proudly in the covered yard, serving Acme Fire Cult flavours whatever the weather. Inside, the space is pared back and dark with industrial elements. A bar seats six, behind which pickles and ferments line the walls.
Acme Fire Cult’s signature plant-based sauces and condiments will also be available for sale at the Dalston yard and online, along with a range of merchandise such as t-shirts and branded hardware.
During March, there will be a limited, outdoor only, teaser ‘First Fires’ menu available, with the full menu available from 1st April.
Of the partnership, Andrew Clarke said: “Steve Ryan and I have been friends for a long time, and I’ve previously cooked at the brewery as a guest chef. Daniel and I had been looking for a space for Acme in Hackney, and when the space at the yard facing 40FT came up, we had to seize it. The potential for the space is huge, and we want special events and guest chef dinners to become a big part of the offering. We’re really excited to be working with
Steve and 40FT. The synergy of the beer brewing process and menu creation is central to what we’re doing at Acme and encompasses all aspects of the menu. We can’t wait for people to try it.”
The space will be open Wednesday – Sunday and is also available for private hire.